“The goal isn’t more money. The goal is living life on your terms” Chris Brogan.
I am now officially out of my maternity leave, and I am lucky enough that I am able to take an extra year off work on career break. Now we are by no means rich but we have learned to live to our means. Before Charlie came along my husband and I were both earning good wages, we had a healthy disposable income that we somehow spent every month. Now that we are surviving on a lot less, I look back and think – how on earth did we spend all that, what did we buy?? If only we had saved more! And while it would be great to be sitting on a hefty savings pot, it is no good looking back thinking “if only”. We spent the money and we enjoyed the time that we had before the responsibility of a baby.
Obviously if I were to go back to work we would have more money coming in again, but we sat down and looked at our circumstances and realised that if we both worked, Charlie would barely see either of us. We didn’t spend 3 years trying to conceive, to then go through a successful round of IVF, to then miss out on our sons most important first years. Now I understand that I am in a privileged position and that for many women (or men), taking unpaid time away from work is just not an option.
So how to approach the financial side of things before I embark on a career break. Firstly, I made a list of all of our monthly bills (mortgage, car loan, insurance, phone bills etc etc). I then considered how we pay our gas, electricity and water bills – previously we paid these quarterly. I then used the Uswitch website to compare and make sure that we were on the best deal, if we weren’t then we rang our current provider and asked them if they could offer us a better deal, otherwise we would switch providers. Next I looked at whether a water meter would be more cost effective for us, and it turned out that it was, so we had one installed. We now are on the best deals that we can find and have monthly direct debits set up so that we are never caught out by a bug hefty bill turning up on the doormat. I also use Uswitch to compare car insurance, phone bills and pet insurance.
So once I had the monthly bills sorted I considered what other outgoings we have such as food, petrol, money for golf, swimming, gym sessions, coffees etc. In addition to his there are nappies, baby wipes, baby food etc to consider.
With all of our outgoings listed and added up, I then wrote down our monthly income, which with me not working would simply be my husbands’ wage. Plus also the monthly family allowance. Every time the family allowance is paid in I go straight to the shop and buy the nappies and food that we need for Charlie for the month so that I don’t have to worry about running out. So all that was left was to subtract the monthly outgoings from my husbands monthly income. And we are lucky that this leaves enough for us to live on for the month, without me bringing any additional money home.
It is very tight though, and there is no more seeing things and buying them just because we want them. Every purchase is thought through – do we NEED this, can I get this somewhere cheaper, is there a cheaper alternative?
I began using online grocery shopping when Charlie was born – to start with this was just for convenience as it was easier than taking him to the supermarket while I did “the big shop”. I have found that this is a much more cost effective way of doing the food shopping.
Firstly, there is no getting tempted by the latest offers, or that bar of chocolate near the till. It basically stops you from seeing things that you weren’t planning on. Using and putting them in your trolley. I have the Ocado, Asda and Tesco apps installed on my phone. Each shop does an introductory money off voucher for your first shop. I made sure I used each of the supermarkets once so that I got money off, once I had been a “new customer” to all of them and was no longer eligible for the money off vouchers, I stuck with my favourite one. Now I am able to put things in my virtual trolley as and when I think of things that we need. So i can be filling up my “trolley” for a few days before I finally go through the “checkout”.
Secondly, it is so much easier to see whether you are getting the best deal. I always look at the “price per 100g”, because sometimes even those items that are on sale have a higher price per 100g than another brand. It will also show “price per sheet” eg toilet paper, kitchen towel; or “price per slice” for bread etc. Shops own brands also do a range of items that are just as good, if not better, than well known brands, at a fraction of the price. Now I will say that we will try the shop own brands, and if we don’t like something we won’t buy it for the sake of saving a few pennies, you still have to enjoy the foods that you eat. For example we tried Tesco own brand baked beans and we weren’t impressed, but Waitrose essential baked beans are delicious and are the same price as the tesco ones. Also some items constantly come in to promotional sales every few weeks, so for example, if one week they are on a 2 for 1 deal I will buy them, but if the deal isn’t on the next week then I will wait until the offer comes round again, which it always ends up doing – some items are just always coming up in a sale and you get to know which ones.
Loyalty card schemes are also fantastic for saving money, for example Boots advantage card, Costa coffee card (I’m always meeting people for coffees) and Tesco club card. All of these schemes do pay off and you can rack up quite a bit of money over the year.
Its also worth shopping around for good 0% credit card deals and coming up with a plan of how much you want to pay off each month. For many people it’s hopeless thinking that you are going to be able to pay off large chunks in one go, so a small but regular monthly payment plan is an excellent way of ensuring your debt is going down.
I am by no means a money saving expert and there are some well known websites out there that give you endless tips and tricks to manage and save your money. This is just my personal experience and my strategies for dealing with a lower income than we are used to.
Going back to the quote at the beginning, money is not what is important, it is about being in a comfortable enough position so that you can enjoy the things that matter most in your life. I hope you found this useful.
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